Earlier this week, I wrote about news anchor Jennifer Livingston, who stood up to a viewer’s remarks about her weight. In that video, she says she has three young girls. I say those girls are especially blessed to have Jennifer as a mom. You can bet that they will grow up with a solid sense of knowing themselves and will get what makes them important.
Kids develop a strong and healthy self image by watching their parents. When a daughter sees her mother refuse to be made fun of because of her weight or any other perceived weakness, that daughter likes what she sees. Every daughter wants to see her mother stand up for what is right. But she not only applauds her mother; she learns some very important lessons about herself, too.
When a daughter watches her mother’s behavior, she does two things. First, she tries the behavior out. She may mimic her mother’s speech, tone of voice, or parrot her message. Then, if she likes the behavior, she will internalize it and allow it to become part of her character. In a very real sense, she gets part of her identity by watching her mother and “becoming her,” if you will. This is very important for mothers to understand.
Many of us try to figure out what to say to our children and how to say it. Instead, we should be paying closer attention to how we are speaking to others and what we are saying to them. Because it’s what we say in front of our kids—not to them—that changes who our kids become. In Jennifer Livingston’s situation, she needn’t tell her daughter anything about how to handle a bully; she just gave her the most powerful teaching tool she has. She fought the bully off.
Many times I am asked to speak to kids about important things like sex, drugs, and alcohol. My preference is always to speak to parents, instead, because I have learned a few critical things about kids and what changes who they become. We—you and I—can tell them things and we must. But far more important is being good adults in front of our kids because our actions change them far more powerfully than our words. And when it comes to who influences kids better—their peers, a professional like me, or their parents—there is no contest. A parent holds all the power in a child’s life because every child is connected to his parents by his needs. He wants to know what his parents think, feel, and believe in. Once he can figure this out, then he is on his way toward modeling his behavior after his mother’s or father’s.
Giving your child a healthy self esteem is as easy as behaving well in front of them. So to you mothers who feel bullied or manipulated, stand up for yourselves. Have the courage to stop being pushed around. And to you fathers who feel like you are pulled in the wrong direction, have the chutzpah to do what is right. Someone very important in your life will be watching and then go and do the same.
On November 1, I’ll be giving away a special prize package for mom’s mind, body, and soul. When you leave a comment on any post with the “Strong Mothers, Strong Families” badge, you’ll be entered to win this prize, featuring Meg Meeker books, Vicks Behind the Ear Thermometer, Cookbooks from $5 Dinners.com by Erin Chase, a six-month lunch and dinner subscription to Emeals.com, an envelope system and set of kids’ books from DaveRamsey.com, books and CDs from Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, Tell Your Time from Amy Lynn Andrews, and other awesome products!
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